How to Run a Business: Part 1
Well, one way to run a business at least.
Over the past 18 months or so, there have been some fairly significant changes to the way we conduct business at MonkeyPuzzle Computers. These have led to more efficient ways of working and a more complete service to our clients.
In a series of blog posts, I would like to explain which technologies have made the most impact and demonstrate how they have improved the way we work.
Web-based, or ‘Cloud’, Computing
There’s that phrase again - ‘Cloud Computing’. Everyone kind of knows what it refers to, but... I’m going to restrict this post to one aspect of this new phenomena and tell you how we use web-based software to create efficiency gains at MonkeyPuzzle.
The key concept is that the software is web-based. That is, we access our line-of-business apps through a web browser as opposed to installing them on the PC. All the information is stored in secure data centres online and accessed from any internet enabled PC.
Now, this doesn’t mean a great deal when working from the office. Sat at my PC, I work in much the same way as I always did. The most major gain comes from the fact I can do the same thing on any PC via the internet. Not remotely logging into my PC at work, but working with the same software via the web. On any PC. Anywhere.
Web-based software also tends to be paid for by monthly subscription, meaning there is no large initial capital outlay and it is easy on cash flow. Product updates and feature upgrades are also usually included, so I gain additional benefit without having to pay for a new version of the software.
A massive advantage of working with web-based software is that, first of all, it’s not stored on your PC and, secondly, it tends to back up regularly as you’re working. So when the PC crashes inexplicably, your work is waiting for you when you log back in. That alone has saved a lot of extra effort and frustration, I can tell you.
Finally, I’ll quickly run through how we use web-based software in practice;
Our email is now managed through GoogleApps. We still have a proper company domain name email address (firstname.lastname@example.org), but it is hosted by Google. We don’t have to run an email server on the premises and we gain many excellent features; Google’s powerful search facility within emails, threaded conversations to keep track of what’s been said, safe and secure data lodged in multiply redundant datacentres and we can still use Outlook should we desire to do so.
We use a VOIP phone system, which means the telephone operates over broadband rather than the traditional phone network. We have made some cost savings, but the largest benefit has been the flexibility this has brought. One example; I can unplug my phone from work, plug it into any router and it will be as though I’m in the office - displayed number, internal transfers, incoming call.
This is the application we use to run our business. Accounts, CRM, sales, marketing and ServiceDesk are all seamlessly integrated into one online system. All our business information is available in one place, all our client information is available to all staff members. In terms of service to our clients and generally keeping on top of business, this app is second to none. And as it is web-based I can access my business information from anywhere. Anytime.
We forget that website hosting is technically cloud computing. It is usually impractical to locate our websites on expensive systems onsite, so they are uploaded to cyberspace and accessed from there. Our own website, www.monkeypuzzlecomputers.com, is a CMS site powered by Kontrolit. This allows me to easily make changes to the site, integrate content with social media, blog, administer a mailing list and provide support to clients.
I think in the future lines will become blurred between web-based software and traditional locally installed software, but I know this much; at present, it is the web-based apps that seem to be making the most of new technologies to create better products for business.